My wife Judy and I took Roxy for walk on the Hoboken waterfront this Monday night, Labor Day. It was an unusually quiet and peaceful night. As we slowly walked from 4th and River towards the Train Station we witnessed what was apparently a nightly ritual where homeless people prepared themselves for bedtime on the streets of Hoboken. Some took out folded cardboard hidden in the bushes for sleeping
on, others alone, some with friends, prepared benches with blankets, taking out food to eat. Some laid down, some sat, mostly men, but there were some women. This was around 10:30 pm, when we saw a little woman with a cart and two small kids, 5 or 6 years old, just walking up and down the waterfront Blvd. As we watched it started to rain and the woman took out a blanket and wrapped it around and over her children’s head and bodies to protect them from the rain. The kids, as kids do, were laughing and giggling like it was a game. Taking interest, we then saw the woman slowly and meekly approach the workers closing down the outdoor cafes. We followed them and found out that she was asking for food, saying they were homeless.
What to do, what can you do? Call the police? Will they help? Is that something the Police do? My wife gently approached them and gave them all the cash we had, the mother gently refused the money but when we said it was for the children she didn’t object, but for us it felt like a futile gesture. To say it was sad and upsetting is an understatement. We didn’t have our phones with us but thought it best to get the police involved for the sake of the children. We called the police, who were very attentive, and went back outside to check up on the response. We went back to the restaurant where the mother asked for food, they said they gave them some bread, but that it happens all the time at the end of the night, people asking for food.
But they did not know where the little family went. Thinking they might be going to the Train station for shelter we slowly walked toward the Lackawanna Plaza keeping an eye out for the little cart and kids. But they were gone, poof, into the night two little kids hanging on to their homeless mother. Along the way we saw 15- 20 homeless people, half covered with blankets and cardboard, the others milling around on benches and hidden alcoves. We come upon a police car and the policeman confirmed that the Police had in fact sent out a patrolman on foot to look for the mother and kids. We walked some more, asked a few people if they saw this little family but nothing.
That’s it, no happy ending, no answer, no story arc. We did what we thought we could and should do; my wife thinks it was not enough, she’s right.
Our day to day life in Hoboken is filled with successful people and their real estate riches in our wonderful town, but to see a small community of people homeless and hungry in the shadow of the W Hotel is disconcerting. While our helplessness in this situation may be understandable it made us have a new found respect and admiration for the people and mission of The Hoboken Shelter and thank them for their thankless mission and will do more to support their mission.